With my Whyte frame damaged and sent away for repair, I was faced with potentially 6 weeks without a mountain bike to train and race on. Yellow Jersey (my insurer) would cover the cost of a hire bike for this period, however finding somewhere in the UK with a bike of reasonable spec available for hire was easier said than done! Thankfully Ryan at YJ was able to put me in touch with Dave Hemming, the UK brand manager for Italian custom bike brand, Titici, who kindly arranged for the loan of one of their Flexy hardtails from their demo fleet.
I first heard about Titici a few months ago, when BikeRadar had reviewed their gravel bike offering, and the radically thin top tube design grabbed my attention. The brand specialises in high-end carbon frame production, offering a full range of bikes for every discipline. What makes their offering unique, is that every frame is hand built to order, and as such every dimension of the bike’s geometry can be customised to the customer’s measurements or preferences – want a slightly slacker head tube? No problem!
Also unique to Titici is their super-thin Flexy top tube using their patented Plate Absorption Technology (PAT), which is claimed to offer horizontal stiffness yet some vertical flexibility to make for a more comfortable ride. Despite it’s fragile appearance (tapering to around 8mm at the thinnest point!), it’s actually pretty much solid carbon due to increased wall thicknesses.
The frames themselves are somewhat Gucci, with frame only options coming in around €3500, and a complete bike of reasonable spec significantly more… ouch! As such, it’s safe to say my expectations were fairly high of the Titici Flexy!
After a slight hold up, I was excited when the bike was delivered and couldn’t wait to build it up ready to take it out for a spin. The build spec consisted of a RockShox SID fork up front, a Shimano XT drivetrain and brakes, 3T alloy bars, stem and seatpost, and some lightweight Vittoria hoops. The frame itself was a real work of art, with much of the carbon weave left unpainted, but finished with a thick layer of glossy lacquer. The top tube really was thin, however despite it making the bike look lightweight, it was actually a bit heavier than anticipated compared to my Whyte.
Hitting trails again for the first time in weeks felt great! Immediately the geometry of the bike felt really well balanced, as I peeled off up a steep technical climb into the woods and the rear wheel maintained grip perfectly. It also coped well around tight switchbacks and was easy to float down the bermed descents of my local trails. The RockShox SID fork felt slightly more responsive than the Reba I’m used to, and it was nice to try out remote-lockout for the first time – something which I became accustomed to far too quickly and now keep looking for on my Whyte!
Following my first ride, I felt I was riding far too up-right and so swapped the riser bars out for my Whyte’s flat bars. Whilst a bit of a personal preference thing, it seemed a bit odd to spec a riser bar on a race-oriented XC bike, and I found the swap put me in a much more familiar position and really improved the handling.
Unfortunately my enjoyment of the bike was supressed by a very noisy ride, due to an extremely clicky headset and rattling cables internally routed through the downtube. After checking the tightness several times, the headset continued to click constantly which was very distracting. This could possibly have been resolved by some additional grease around the bearings, but as this bike wasn’t mine to tinker with I refrained from applying any. Perhaps my biggest bug bear however, were the internally routed cables which were just left loose to rattle in the very echoey downtube. This is quite a common problem with internally routed frames, however a lot of modern frames are designed with internal tubing to retain and guide the cables, or at the very least have a foam outer tubing installed on the cables to dampen any rattling – I’ve fitted this to the cables on my Whyte to prevent the same issue, which cost very little and was highly effective. Sure, this can be resolved after-market, but these are extremely expensive frames and I’d be very disappointed having purchased one to find a resolution to cable rattle hadn’t been considered.
After a few more rides, it became apparent that the Flexy kind of lived up to it’s name, perhaps somewhat unintentionally. I started to feel like power transfer wasn’t as efficient as it could have been, and this was confirmed when testing the frame for bottom bracket stiffness to find there was a significant amount of flex. As my confidence on the bike improved and I began to progressively ride it harder and faster on descents, I also began to notice the frame flexing beneath me which was a bit disconcerting and far from the rigidity I’ve become accustomed to. Whilst this forgiving frame design may offer comfort and be welcomed in a marathon environment, I like my bikes to be rigid, responsive and as efficient as possible, and as such the Flexy didn’t really suit my riding style.
So the bottom line? Whilst my opinion of the Titici may seem a bit critical, it’s just unfortunate that my experience and enjoyment was hindered by a very noisy bike and it didn’t quite suit my personal riding preferences. If you’re looking for a hardtail with more comfort than an all-out race-focused hardtail, then the Flexy may be worth considering. The build quality of the frame itself is impressive, and if you’re someone with a requirement for non-standard geometry then the Titici could be a good option thanks to their custom build option. I suppose there’s also the potential for the carbon layup to be modified for additional rigidity, however this would likely add weight to an already weighty frame. But at €3500 for frame only, I think I’ll be looking elsewhere when it’s time for my next bike!
A big thanks to Dave Hemming for the loan of the Flexy – even if it wasn’t the perfect bike for me I really appreciate having the opportunity to try it out and get back out on the dirt. If you’re interested in finding out more about the Titici range of bikes, please click here to visit their website.